Back in the '70's during the heyday of hang gliding, a small group of pilots
formed an organization called Rogue Valley Hang Gliding Association. As
a group they established several flying sites throughout southern Oregon
and northern California. Over time the members of this club retired from
the sport, leaving their organization to be dominated by the more
convenient and popular activity of paragliding as the number of hang
glider members dwindled to one or two. Having no active instructors in
the area to replenish the population, hang gliding in the Rogue Valley
seemed to face certain death.
To further add to the potential decline of the sport, during a fateful meeting in 2011of the club - now essentially
consisting of paragliding pilots - it was announced that only one paragliding instructor (and no hang gliding
instructors) would be allowed to train new pilots utilizing the bailout landing zone at Woodrat Mountain,
the area's most popular flying site. This announcement was relayed as a mandate by the bailout field's owner
due to the stress it created for his cattle. A small group of fledgling hang gliding students and their newly
certified instructor were also in attendance at the meeting, and this announcement was, for obvious reasons,
quite demoralizing. At last hang gliding had a chance to come back to its original prominence, but this news
threatened to curtail the efforts of those who dreamed of returning to the glory days.
Hang glider pilots, or would-be pilots, are a tenacious breed however, and this setback would ultimately prove
to be nothing more than a speed bump in the return of the sport in southern Oregon. A few days after this
meeting the small group agreed to organize to become Southern Oregon Air Riders, or SOAR, to restore hang
gliding and pave the way for its comeback in the area. To legitimize their organization they became an
official chapter of the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, which allowed them to pursue
one of their primary missions of establishing and potentially insuring new flying sites. In the process they
pioneered a new launch at a seldom used site in the Williams area and began to re-establish an occasionally
flown site in Merlin, and several other promising sites were discovered or re-discovered as well.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the local paragliding chapter came to recognize that SOAR membership was on
the rise. Although unfettered by access to the main landing zone of LongSword Vineyard as USHPA
members, SOAR members were offered access to the bailout LZ at Woodrat Mountain in exchange for a cash
contribution from current membership - a reasonable compromise for access to a site originally established by
hang gliders in the early years. Meanwhile the instruction cap was revisited and a committee was formed to
control the number of instructors using the bailout, and the local hang gliding instructor was invited to
participate in exchange for an annual contribution. The doors were opened for hang gliding to thrive once
again in southern Oregon.
While the future is yet uncertain, it is clear that a new renaissance is occurring among the hang gliding
population in southern Oregon. Despite the setbacks, the spirit of those original hang glider pilots who
established the sport in the area all those years ago still lives on among the members of SOAR!
WELCOME TO SOUTHERN
OREGON AIR RIDERS!
Rekindling the Spirit of Hang Gliding in Southern Oregon!